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Congress races to avert a government shutdown


Congress is again getting down to the wire on passing a funding measure to avert a government shutdown this week. Today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned colleagues that now is not the time for political games.


CHUCK SCHUMER: The experiences of the last decades show that those who risk shutdowns in order to make political points always lose in the end.

SUMMERS: It's part of a critical to-do list that also includes the end of the Democratic-led probe into the January 6 attack. And it's all happening as Congress heads into a new era of divided government.

Joining us from Capitol Hill is NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Hey there.


SUMMERS: So, Claudia, Friday is the deadline for Congress to pass a bill to avert a government shutdown. Where do things stand now?

GRISALES: Right. They are expected to pass a temporary funding measure by the end of the week that would extend that deadline to next Friday, December 23. And by then, congressional leaders hope to pass a permanent measure to fund the government for the next year. But for now, they've announced a deal on a framework. But we still don't have a topline number for this deal or, for that matter, any text (ph). But there is opposition to this larger spending plan. For example, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy today slammed Democrats for trying to rush through this massive spending bill.


KEVIN MCCARTHY: And now they want to jam the American public in exactly what they want to do. They want to raise the spending, bring more inflation, create more wokeism (ph) in the legislation they want to pass through it and not even give members an opportunity to read it or see it.

GRISALES: And we should note there's many bills dependent on this larger spending plan for money, including the annual defense bill and aid to Ukraine.

SUMMERS: OK. And you know better than I do, Congress is not set to be in for many more days this year. So what does this mean for what else can be passed by the end of the year?

GRISALES: Right. It's a very tight timeline. So members hope this permanent funding measure, which could be one of the last trains leaving the station here, could carry one piece of key legislation, and that's reforms to the Electoral Count Act, which would safeguard future presidential elections.

SUMMERS: The House Select January 6 Committee is also set to wrap up their probe soon. What's left for them?

GRISALES: Right. So they're expecting to hold their last public meeting on Monday. They would announce and vote on criminal referrals and make other recommendations as well. One major area of focus is criminal referrals for former President Trump. And they could also issue referrals for the House Ethics Committee in terms of complaints against other members who were tied to the January 6 attack and also seek to see disciplinary action against lawyers tied to the plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Now, we should note Congress can't prosecute crimes, but they can make a formal request in the form of a formal letter to various entities asking them to pursue these concerns. The panel could share new evidence to support these claims. Also, they're expected to share their final report next week.

SUMMERS: Now, this is all part of a race for Democrats to wrap up their business before Republicans take over the House. You talked about Kevin McCarthy's remarks on spending concerns today, and this comes as he is vying to be the next speaker of the House. Where is that effort now?

GRISALES: Yes. He declined to talk about those plans during a press conference today. But my colleague, Deirdre Walsh, talked to one of his supporters. This is Republican Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who talked about this new campaign or slogan for him called Only Kevin or OK.

NANCY MACE: The theme of our meeting is Only Kevin. He's in it for the long haul. He's been with many of us that represent swing districts and had to fight to get here. And we're going to fight for him to be speaker.

GRISALES: But that said, McCarthy still doesn't have the votes to become speaker with a tight margin in the House come next year, so that's leaving plenty of questions for how this speakership election will play out on the House floor next year on January 3.

SUMMERS: That's NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.